Premier League enforces three-week halt as Uefa postpones Champions League games
English professional soccer today finally suspended all fixtures until 4 April, while Uefa, European soccer’s governing body, postponed all Champions League and Europa League games next week as the coronavirus outbreak continues to escalate.
England's top-flight Premier League said the decision was “unanimous” after it was forced to call an emergency club meeting following Arsenal’s announcement last night that manager Mikel Arteta had tested positive.
Shortly before Arsenal’s announcement, the league had put out a statement saying matches would take place as usual, with fans in attendance, following advice from the UK government.
After news of Arteta broke, Chelsea released a statement of their own in the early hours of this morning revealing that young attacker Callum Hudson-Odoi has also tested positive for coronavirus.
Initially, only Arsenal’s game against Brighton and Hove Albion and Chelsea’s clash against Aston Villa tomorrow were postponed but the decision has now been taken to stage no games for at least the next three weeks.
The league said it aims to “reschedule the displaced fixtures when it is safe to do so.”
Chief executive Richard Masters added: "In this unprecedented situation, we are working closely with our clubs, government, the FA and EFL and can reassure everyone the health and welfare of players, staff and supporters are our priority."
Chelsea’s clash with Germany’s Bayern Munich is one of four Champions League games postponed next week, along with Manchester City against Real Madrid and Juventus’ match with Lyon.
Uefa had previously called an emergency meeting with its key stakeholders next Tuesday to discuss potential steps to take regarding domestic and European competitions.
With forthcoming playoff matches for this summer’s Uefa European Championships already in doubt, Euro 2020 will also be high on the agenda, as it is due to be staged across 12 European cities beginning 12 June.
The suspension in England also covers the three divisions organised by the EFL, while the top leagues in France and Scotland have also been suspended “until further notice”.
France's LFP said it will make a further decision after its board of directors meets with Uefa on Tuesday.
European soccer is essentially on shut down, with the exception of Germany's Bundesliga which is slated to stage fixtures this weekend before imposing a suspension. Belgium's Pro League is carrying on behind closed doors at present.
Spain’s LaLiga and Portugal's Liga Nos are suspended for at least two weeks, while Italy’s Serie A, as well as all sport throughout the country, is suspended until at least 3 April. Leagues in Poland, Czech Republic, Denmark and Norway are among those to have taken similar action in recent days.
North American basketball’s NBA suspended its league until further notice yesterday after a player contracted the virus. Major League Soccer and ice hockey's NHL have followed suit, while Major League Baseball has delayed the start of its season by at least two weeks.
Golf’s PGA Tour, meanwhile, performed a U-turn and decided to cancel The Players Championship after one round of play, having originally said it would go ahead without fans.
This is in addition to all PGA Tour events also being cancelled across all of its tours for at least the next month.
In further developments today, Formula 1 motor racing has cancelled its planned grands prix in Bahrain and Vietnam, after earlier calling off the season opener in Melbourne, Australia.
Formula E, the international electric car racing series, has also temporarily suspended its season for a two-month period.
Due the suspension, races will no longer take place in Paris, France, Seoul in South Korea, or Jakarta, Indonesia as previously scheduled.
Formula E said it will work with the FIA, the sport’s governing body, and local authorities in each event location and “closely monitor the situation and evaluate options to organise and reschedule races following the temporary suspension.”
Additionally in soccer, world governing body Fifa has postponed the upcoming World Cup qualifiers in South America which were due to take place later this month.